Single-Author Works Becoming Less Acceptable?

We know that articles on Wikipedia are by definition authored by several if not many people. As Wikipedia becomes more acceptable it follows that readers will become more accustomed to this multiple-author style.

Traditional publishing sources and would-be Wikipedia competitors like Google Knol encourage single-author contributions with filtering by professional editors. In his Scholarly Kitchen post Kent Anderson points us to a discussion on this topic by Cathy Davidson about multiple-authoring on Wikipedia. She suggests ‘…debates, diversity, and range of views on Wikipedia make for better entries, more improvement to entries, and a better overall experience. Conversely, knol entries seem like vanity publishing’.

Kent summarises Cathy’s post thus:

Many people contributing small bits soon create something much larger and more diverse than any individual author can do alone.

Individual authorship tends to become an “informercial” for that author’s point of view or biases, which can be boring and uninformative.

Debate, update, and revision are vital to a vibrant reference work. Google Knol is static and uninteresting.

If this trend is indeed happening it forces academics like myself who have spent a whole career building a reputation for mainly single-authored works to pause for thought at the very least. Measuring contributions to multi-authored works for career progression also becomes problematical. Disruptive times indeed.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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